To identify novel genomic regions that regulate sex determination, we utilized the powerful C57BL/6J-YPOS (B6-YPOS) model of XY sex reversal where mice with autosomes from the B6 strain and a Y chromosome from a wild-derived strain, Mus domesticus poschiavinus (YPOS), show complete sex reversal. In B6-YPOS, the presence of a 55-Mb congenic region on chromosome 11 protects from sex reversal in a dose-dependent manner. Using mouse genetic backcross designs and high-density SNP arrays, we narrowed the congenic region to a 1.62-Mb genomic region on chromosome 11 that confers 80% protection from B6-YPOS sex reversal when one copy is present and complete protection when two copies are present. It was previously believed that the protective congenic region originated from the 129S1/SviMJ (129) strain. However, genomic analysis revealed that this region is not derived from 129 and most likely is derived from the semi-inbred strain POSA. We show that the small 1.62-Mb congenic region that protects against B6-YPOS sex reversal is located within the Sox9 promoter and promotes the expression of Sox9, thereby driving testis development within the B6-YPOS background. Through 30 years of backcrossing, this congenic region was maintained, as it promoted male sex determination and fertility despite the female-promoting B6-YPOS genetic background. Our findings demonstrate that long-range enhancer regions are critical to developmental processes and can be used to identify the complex interplay between genome variants, epigenetics, and developmental gene regulation.
- Received November 27, 2013.
- Accepted April 11, 2014.
- Copyright © 2014 by the Genetics Society of America